dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Play will make laugh out loud
This 25th-anniversary production of the British-Asian comedy East is East reminds us of why the play became such a smash hit. Written by Ayub Khan Din and inspired by his memories of growing up in Salford, it premiered at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1996 before moving to London's West End and becoming a successful film.
Now returning to Birmingham Repertory Theatre until September 25, the show then moves to the National Theatre on October 7-30.
Resonating with audiences of all backgrounds, East is East explores questions of identity, belonging and family love but also conflict. Set in 1971, it focuses on the Khan family where father George is determined to convince his family to live like 'proper' Pakistanis while each of his children wants to pursue their own destiny.
George, played with bucket-loads of humour and a touch of sympathy by Tony Jayawardena, tries every trick in the book from cajoling through to violence but the fractures in the family run deep. At the same time, he is suffering from uncertainty regarding his own identity as a 'proper' Pakistani as he watches the news unfolding from a war in East Pakistan which will lead to the creation of an independent Bangladesh.
Sophie Stanton is his wife Ella, a woman desperate to keep the family together but torn between her love and duty towards her husband and her children. Working morning till night in the family chip shop, she is taunted by George's tales of his 'first wife' back in Pakistan.
The Khan children
The five children remaining at home are all pulling in different directions. Tariq (Gurjeet Singh) is turning his back on his heritage, Abdul (Assad Zaman) is also resistant and yet has a deep sense of loyalty to his father and Maneer (Joeravar Sangha) is finding comfort in Islam.
Saleem (Adonis Jenieco) is at college studying art while his father believes he is studying engineering, Sajit (Noah Manzoor) hardly speaks and refuses to remove his Parka coat and Meenah (Amy-Leigh Hickman) goes against the grain at every opportunity.
The reason East is East has remained so successful is that it is incredibly funny. Audiences will smile throughout at characters and scenarios they recognise and they will laugh out loud at George's attempts to matchmake Abdul and Tariq with two daughters of an acquaintance.
Director Iqbal Khan doesn't shy away from playing with stereotypes and misconceptions but it is all done in good humour making it hard for an audience to be sure quite where their allegiances lie. As the family reaches crisis point, we are all willing them to find a way for their differing desires to find a place together.